Montana judge stops massive coal mine expansion, citing climate impact

August 16, 2017 by  
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In another strike against coal, a federal judge just shut down plans for a large coal mine expansion in Montana, saying US officials had exaggerated the economic benefits of the mine while downplaying the impact it would have on the environment. Signal Peak Energy wanted to expand the Bull Mountain coal mine by 11 square miles and 176 million tons, claiming it would create jobs and generate tax revenue, all while not having any new impact on climate change . U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy blocked the proposal, ruling that approving such a request should take into consideration not just the environmental effects of the mine, but shipping the fuel to Asia and the carbon cost for climate chang e of burning that fuel. The ruling has its roots in a lawsuit filed in 2015 by the Sierra Club, Montana Elders for a Livable tomorrow and the Montana Environmental Information Center, in which the groups stated that the government has not considered the effects of mining once it leaves the mountain. Related: Global coal production falls 6.2% in the biggest decline in history Mine owners argued the expansion would add $24 million in tax revenue and that there would be no additional impact to the environment, since customers could simply go elsewhere for more coal anyway. “This conclusion is illogical, and places the (Interior Department’s) thumb on the scale by inflating the benefits of the action while minimizing its impacts,” wrote Judge Molloy. Similar rulings in Colorado and Montana have been made in the past, but in those cases, mines were eventually allowed to expand after further environmental review. Via the Associated Press Images via Signal Peak Energy and Deposit Photos

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Montana judge stops massive coal mine expansion, citing climate impact

700 Indian villagers waded through their filthy, dying river and brought it back to life

August 8, 2017 by  
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“Don’t waste your time,” doubters reportedly told a self-organized group of villagers in South Kerala who wanted to resurrect their once-teeming river. According to local Indian press, years of industrial seepage transformed the Kuttemperoor River into a giant cesspool that produced nothing but disease and devastation. Located in Alappuzha district, the river’s width reportedly shrunk from 120 feet to 20 feet, and all traces of aquatic biodiversity vanished. But earlier this year, 700 people felt they simply had to try. They had to try to bring their river back to life. “When water scarcity turned unbearable, we decided to revive the river. Initially many discouraged us saying it was a mere waste of money and energy. But we proved them all wrong,” Budhanoor panchayat president P Viswambhara Panicker told Hindustan Timees. The panchayat, a self-organized group of locals, planned the mammoth cleanup effort, which involved wading through the filthy water and dislodging weeds, plastic and other debris from the river bed. It took more than two months to ply the river’s 7-mile length, often at great risk to volunteers’ personal health. One woman, P Geetha, told the paper she fell ill during cleanup operations. “I was down with dengue for two weeks but I returned to digging the day I was out of my bed,” she said. Related: The Ocean Cleanup finds 1.15 to 2.41 million metric tons of plastic enter oceans from rivers And their hard work paid off. “Once we removed all waste river started recharging on its own and on 45th day flow started. For women folk, it was not just a work for money but it was gargantuan task to revive a lifeline,” Sanal Kumar, a volunteer with the National Rural Jobs Guarantee Scheme, told Hindustan Times . After 70 days of cleaning the river, full flow was reportedly restored. Via Hindustan Times Images via YouTube screengrab

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700 Indian villagers waded through their filthy, dying river and brought it back to life

Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa

July 3, 2017 by  
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Johannesburg , South Africa was built on mining . The gold mining industry began there in the late 1800s , and the city still feels the impact of acid mine drainage, which pollutes the local water supply and scars the environment . Architecture For a Change has a solution: a dam and water purification plant that could help heal the landscape – and in the future, it could even provide housing . Acid mine drainage can pollute drinking water and soil. Johannesburg – near where some of the world’s biggest gold reefs are located – is suffering from the issue. Architecture For a Change says chronic exposure to acid mine drainage can cause cancer, skin lesions, and cognitive impairment. But they’ve found a potential solution through design . Related: Modern recycled container house in South Africa operates 100% off grid They envision a network of purification stations to heal the landscape. A skyscraper would house laboratories and the purification plant, which could draw on Trailblazer KNEW Ion Exchange technology to treat contaminated water. The treatment process would not only yield clean water, but minerals and substances like dolomite, gypsum, and salt that could be used in fertilizers or building. Re-mining Johannesburg doesn’t just clean up water, but could be integrated into the city’s urban fabric. Architecture For a Change envisions three phases for the project. First, water will be pumped from a mining void and purified, creating a large body of water that could become a waterfront held in by a dam. Second, as the land recovers water levels will go down, and the walls of the dam can be turned into housing. In phase three, in the far future, when the landscape is restored, the empty dam will be turned into a park fertilized with the byproducts of the treatment process, and surrounded by housing in the dam walls. The purification plant could be turned into a solar power station to provide energy for the homes. The main building could also have room for a hotel, restaurants, offices, or retail spaces in the future. The skyscraper design is inspired by mining headgear to connect the new buildings to the city’s past. Re-Mining Johannesburg also incorporates sustainable design : the building’s geometry means there is no roof or southern facade, minimizing heat loss. Heat from the purification process could be reused to warm the building in the winter. + Architecture For a Change Images courtesy of Architecture For a Change

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Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa

Global population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute

July 3, 2017 by  
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We’re drowning in plastic bottles . You already know plastic water bottle use – and their disposal or lack thereof – is a worldwide dilemma, but new statistics released by The Guardian reveal just how staggering the issue has become. Every minute humans purchase one million plastic bottles, consuming nearly 500 billion a year. And while it’s true many of these bottles can be recycled , it’s becoming harder for us to keep up with the sheer volume of trash that needs recycling, and a great deal of it lands up polluting our oceans . In 2016 humans bought over 480 billion plastic water bottles. But that’s only the beginning of the bad news. Less than half of those 480 billion bottles were collected for recycling. And a mere seven percent of those found a second life as new bottles. What happened to the rest? You guessed it: they’re littering our oceans and landfills . And estimates from Euromonitor International indicate their use will only increase, to 583.5 billion by 2021. Related: Plastic waste pop-up pavilion rethinks recycling in the Netherlands Surfers Against Sewage chief executive Hugo Tagholm told The Guardian, “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change …Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain . Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.” Plastic is already showing up in our food, according to recent studies. Scientists at Belgium’s Ghent University found people who eat seafood unwittingly consume 11,000 tiny plastic pieces yearly. Researchers at Plymouth University in England discovered plastic in one third of fish caught in the United Kingdom. According to The Guardian, plastic was first popularized in the 1940’s – but much of the material manufactured then is still around today because plastic takes hundreds of years at best to break down. These bottles could be comprised of 100 percent recycled plastic , but many brands haven’t made the switch because they prefer the shiny look of traditional plastic. And many companies have fought against a tax on single-use bottles. But a similar tax on plastic bags has been quite successful: England’s five pound plastic bag tax has resulted in usage of the polluting bags plummeting by 85 percent . Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Emilian Robert Vicol on Flickr

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Global population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute

China’s largest bike share launches air-purifying bicycles for 20 million citizens

June 30, 2017 by  
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In the near future, 20 million people will be able to clean the air as they cycle. To fight air pollution and create a healthier environment for future generations, eco-innovator Daan Roosegaarde just partnered with Chinese bike-sharing giant ofo and leading Chinese design platform TEZIGN to make his smog-free bicycles available to millions of consumers. Roosegaarde’s highly-anticipated Smog Free Bicycles inhale dirty air, clean it, and then release fresh air into the environment. The bicycles work similarly to Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Tower by providing “a healthy and energy-friendly solution for urbanites, combatting both traffic congestion and pollution issues in the city.” Both the Smog Free Tower and the smog-free bicycles are part of Roosegaarde’s larger vision to fill cities with fresh air. At present, the project is being developed in China and the Netherlands. Roosegaarde , a Dutch artist and innovator, first unveiled the concept for a Smog Free Bicycle at a TED talk. It wasn’t long before excitement grew for the innovation, resulting in the progress made thus far. In a statement, Roosegaarde said, “ Beijing used to be an iconic bicycle city. We want to bring back the bicycle as a cultural icon of China and as the next step towards smog free cities.” Related: Daan Roosegaarde’s smog-sucking tower will clean the skies of China The news was announced at a press conference at the World Economic Forum / AMNC17, in Dalian. Further details about the project will be revealed in coming months. There’s still a long way to go to slash pollution and traffic in China, but the Smog Free Bicycle offers a creative approach to the problem. + Studio Roosegaarde Images via Studio Roosegaarde , Pinterest

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China’s largest bike share launches air-purifying bicycles for 20 million citizens

Pollution cuts solar energy production by up to 35%

June 29, 2017 by  
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We may be sabotaging our efforts to generate clean energy . New research from a team led by Duke University found polluted air may be reducing our solar energy output – by 25 percent. And areas with some of the highest investment in solar power are those impacted the most: China , the Arabian Peninsula, and India . Dust and airborne particles may be harming our ability to generate as much solar energy as we can. Duke University engineering professor Michael Bergin said, “My colleagues in India were showing off some of their rooftop solar installations, and I was blown away by how dirty the panels were. I thought the dirt had to affect their efficiencies, but there weren’t any studies out there estimating the losses. So we put together a comprehensive model to do just that.” Related: Students Create Award-Winning Robot That Cleans Solar Panels Joined by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) and the University of Wisconsin at Madison , Duke University scientists found pollution accumulation is indeed impacting solar energy output. They measured the decrease in energy from IITGN’s solar panels as they got dirtier. Each time the panels were cleaned after several weeks, the researchers noted a 50 percent boost in efficiency. China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula are the areas of the world impacted the most. Even if their panels are cleaned monthly, they still could be losing 17 to 25 percent of solar energy production. And if the cleanings happen every two months, the losses are 25 or 35 percent. Reduced output costs countries not just in electricity but money as well. Bergin said China could lose tens of billions of dollars yearly, “with more than 80 percent of that coming from losses due to pollution.” He pointed out we’ve known air pollution is bad for health and climate change , but now we know it’s bad for solar energy as well – all the more reason for politicians to adopt emissions controls. The research was published online this month by the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters . Via Duke University Images via Duke Engineering on Twitter and Pexels

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Your Currency for Change: How to Focus Environmental Giving

June 8, 2017 by  
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By Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet Currency is something we normally think of in narrow terms: the bills or coins we fish out of wallets and pockets to pay for our morning cuppa. But we can also think of it in broader terms: the influence…

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Glowing see-through garden house lets plants soak up the sun

May 31, 2017 by  
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Sometimes less really is more. This beautiful glowing home by H.a Architects was inspired by just one thing – lush greenery. Located in Ho Chi Minh City , the Less Home is clad in perforated white metal that lets in optimal natural light for the abundant vegetation that weaves throughout the interior. The home’s two-story tower design had to be strategic to make the most out of the small plot of land where the building stands. The compact space, which currently houses a family of seven, led the architects to create a flexible interior layout. Composed of various moveable partition s, the system allows the family to customize different layouts throughout the lifetime of the home. Related: Renovated Vietnamese home ‘sewn’ together with intricate steel threads On the interior, the design is minimalist in terms of furniture and decoration, instead using lush vegetation as the foremost design feature. Inspired by the surrounding tropical environment, the designers wanted to pull the exterior inside as much as possible. As a result, various trees and garden pockets are distributed throughout the home, creating a healthy, vibrant greenhouse feel. The home’s perforated white cladding helps feed the vegetation, which in return, provides clean breathing environment for the family, something especially important in a city known for its urban pollution . Via Archdaily Photography by Quang Dam  

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Glowing see-through garden house lets plants soak up the sun

Solar-powered Villa Schoorl blends into Hollands polder landscape

May 31, 2017 by  
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Natural materials and sustainable principles led the design of Villa Schoorl, a contemporary home nestled in the green polders near the North Holland dunes. Surrounded by mills and farmhouses, the contemporary villa references the local rural vernacular with its vertical timber cladding but distinguishes itself using an eyecatching sawtooth roof. Designed by Paul de Ruiter Architects , the energy-efficient dwelling is predominately powered by rooftop solar panels. The Villa Schoorl was mostly built with natural materials to blend the building into the landscape as much as possible. “It was essential to design a villa which in its appearance and its materials is in sync with this context,” said the firm, which clad the home in untreated timber to match the nearby forests. The majority of the villa is tucked underground to further minimize its visual effect on the landscape. Despite its partially subterranean design, Villa Schoorl is flooded with natural light thanks to floor-to-ceiling glazing, skylights, and a central glass atrium . Bedrooms, a hobby room, yoga room, and bathroom are located underground. An open-plan living area, dining room, and kitchen are placed aboveground and surrounded by sliding glass doors that can be shielded with vertical folding elements for privacy and solar shading. Homeowners also have access to a covered terrace on the south end. Related: Solar-powered luxury villa is an energy-neutral gem set in a Dutch dune landscape Rooftop solar panels are mounted on the southernmost part of the sloped roof and the renewable energy harnessed provide a major part of the home’s energy supply. A wood stove connected to central heating helps to heat the home efficiently in winter. + Paul de Ruiter Architects Images by Tim Van de Velde

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Solar-powered Villa Schoorl blends into Hollands polder landscape

Trump budget proposes 31% cut to EPA funding

May 24, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump is still trying to take a swing at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The White House’s most recent budget proposal, released yesterday, would cut money for environmental cleanup, clean air , and water programs. And thousands of people could lose their jobs as the number of full-time employees drops from 15,416 to 11,611 . The recent Trump budget proposal lowers EPA funding to $5.65 billion. If that still sounds like a hefty sum, consider what the EPA won’t be able to do with this slashed budget: restore areas like the Great Lakes and Puget Sound and run a lead risk-reduction program. They also won’t have as much money for climate change research, environmental justice efforts, or radon detection programs. The White House proposal also just about halves categorical grants which help states and local areas address water and air quality. Related: Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers EPA administrator Scott Pruitt stood behind Trump’s drastic cuts; the agency put out a statement praising the returned “focus to core statutory mission,” which we guess means dirty air and polluted water for all. Pruitt even decided to say Trump’s “budget respects the American taxpayer.” This praise comes even though the proposed budget would reduce funding for Pruitt’s Superfund cleanup program – which he’s listed as a priority – by almost one third. Toxic accidents or industrial activity have polluted these Superfund sites, many of which, according to The Guardian , are close to low-income or minority communities. National Association of Clean Air Agencies executive director S. William Becker said he was astounded the administration didn’t change much from their initial March budget proposal, even after bipartisan opposition from Congress. Lawmakers recently reached a deal for government funding through September that cuts the EPA’s budget by around one percent. In a statement on the recent proposal, Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said, “This isn’t a budget – it’s a road map for the President, EPA Administrator Pruitt, and polluters to see that millions of Americans drink dirtier water, breathe more polluted air, and don’t have enough nutritious food to lead healthy lives.” Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency on Flickr

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Trump budget proposes 31% cut to EPA funding

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